AER members represent the diversity of Europe. A bit more than 50% of our members are composed mainly of rural areas. A lot of focus is currently put on the EU urban agenda. Yet, a sound territorial development will only happen if urban and rural connect cleverly. It is therefore important to think and discuss the future of European rurality.
This is why AER has signed the appeal of its partner network, the European Countryside Movement, to push the European Commission to produce a white paper on rurality in order to force Europe to have this discussion.
Current development policies generate significant imbalances between cities and countryside. The gap is growing and leads away from the territorial cohesion required by the Maastricht Treaty.
The inequality of residents and local stakeholders in terms of access to public services is growing. The falling levels of health, transport and safety services in rural territories gives inhabitants cause for concern and frequently results in a feeling of abandonment.
The same applies with the quality of the basic infrastructure necessary for development, such as high-speed broadband or mobile telephony. That imbalance is especially damaging for rural territories as Europe has turned more and more to developing a digital society in which the ability to communicate is essential to produce, to sell or to consume.
The contributions that rural territories, with their diversity, can make to the inclusive, sustainable and smart growth aimed at by the Europe 2020 Strategy are under-recognised and under-exploited. The current European policies fail to develop all the rural potential: the situation calls for a major evolution!